Shingles is a virus that has caused many physicians and researchers to scratch their heads when considering treatment or shingles prevention measures. How can you prevent a virus that exists within the body and does so quietly for many years, yet when active causes such tremendous amount of pain to the afflicted? Shingles prevention is an approach that can only be considered when taking the overall body and health into consideration.
This debilitating nerve and skin infection has plagued mankind over the centuries, but now there is hope. The number of people diagnosed each year with shingles, in the U.S. is approximately 200,000 to one million and countless more that go undiagnosed. Shingles is not considered a life threatening illness, however, the affects of shingles can change your life and daily habits for weeks, months and in some cases years. To date, there is no known cure for shingles.
There are ongoing studies of shingles in progress and a vaccine is being studied both by The Department of Veteran Affairs, in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This study is giving indication of being the most promising study to date, for prevention of shingles and for those who at risk. Among those most at risk are pregnant women, children, and those with lowered immune systems, as well as the elderly. Most patients with Shingles are fifty years of age and older. Studies have shown individuals who live to the age of 85 have a 50/50 percent chance of developing shingles.
The natural life and progression of shingles results from a prior infection of chickenpox, the virus once healed, does not leave the body. This virus is (VZV) or commonly known as Varicella-Zoster Virus and is the culprit for an infection and onset of shingles. This virus hides in the nerve cells on either side of the spinal cord. For most people this latent virus will never cause a problem. The virus sets up its home within the Dorsal Root Ganglia and although you are living with this latent virus, eighty percent of the time no symptoms will result from it’s existence. For the remaining twenty percent of the population, the virus will return at any given time and will do so with a vengeance. The return or reactivation of this virus is shingles or (Herpes Zoster). It is unknown what actually triggers the onset and reactivation of the shingles virus. All that is known has been shown in studies, that those infected with the virus, usually have a low immune system, caused either by age, stress or other diseases. When the virus awakens, within the body it causes an overwhelming amount of damage, killing nerve cells. This virus travels along the nerve causing a rash that turns to blisters, and a most excruciating pain that typically lasts from three to five weeks.
There are a small number of patients that suffer from Post Herpetic Nuralgia. Post Herpetic Nuralgia is the result of damage that occurs to the nerves caused by shingles and is the primary cause of shingles associated pain that manifests for years.
Simple tasks and everyday living can trigger pain associated with shingles. Acts such as change in the weather, your clothing, or even a touch of a hand can trigger the excruciating pain.
The pain associated with shingles cannot be compared to any pain that you have ever had such as headaches, broken bones, or burns. Typically shingles will not respond well to painkillers or any method for controlling pain. In a few reported cases, sadly, patients diagnosed with shingles resorted to suicide as a means to end the pain.
There are many pain relievers being prescribed to shingles patients to minimize their ongoing misery, none of which are effective for long periods of time, if at all. There are anti-viral drugs and over-the-counter remedies that help to shorten the duration of shingles, if taken at the first sign of shingles associated symptoms. These drugs can aide in minimizing the outbreak though they can do nothing for the existing dead nerve cells. It is essential that shingles be diagnosed as early as possible to help reduce the impact shingles will have on your body.
Steroids have been tried as well as Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and topical creams, such as Anesthetic Lidocaine, which now can be purchased in patch form. When patients with chronic pain caused by Shingles use Lidocaine it has been proven to be effective. The patch is recommended to help with associated pain affecting the area around the eye, though the patch can be difficult to use around the eye, it is the most effective treatment. The pain has been described as if you had needles, or some type of foreign object plunged into your eye. Another proven method of treatment is Shingles No More. This therapeutic oil has proven affective in minimizing the pain associated with shingles outbreaks. Shingles No More can be placed on an adhesive bandage to hold the treatment in place and will offer prolonged therapy to the outbreaks.
Acupuncture as well as electrical stimulation have been tried though no studies have ever reported this to be an effective treatment option, some have claimed them successful. Surgery is an option that some physicians will resort to in severe cases.
There is a large research trial underway to test a vaccine for shingles that is similar to children’s chickenpox vaccine. This is a four-year study and is following 37,000 people living with shingles at 21 VA sites nationwide.
Shingles prevention of a virus that already exists and lays dormant in the body is unheard of. There are only measures that can be taken to prevent the reactivation of the virus. Measures can be taken to avoid getting the virus that causes both chickenpox and shingles, by taking the Varicella Vaccine, now being recommended for preventing chickenpox. It is not known as of yet whether this can prevent shingles from developing in those who have had chickenpox. The thought process behind this recommendation is that the vaccine may boost the immune system, to the point of preventing the development of shingles in those persons that have had chickenpox as children or adults with previous episodes of shingles.
Avoiding contact with anyone having chickenpox or shingles is recommended, if you have never had chickenpox. The excreting fluid from shingles lesions is considered to be very contagious, contact should be carefully avoided. The exposure to shingles lesions can cause chickenpox in those who have never had chickenpox but it cannot cause shingles. As you can likely see at this point, this virus has a natural progression in its attack. In order to suffer a shingles infection a prior infection of chickenpox is the only avenue in which the shingles virus attacks.
As stated previously this is a virus that causes excruciating and debilitating pain that may last anywhere from weeks to years, depending on the individual and their own systems ability to combat the virus. Most pain medications have little if any effect.
The best approach to shingles prevention is taking care of your body, avoiding stress, and implementing measures to build up your immune system. Drink 8 glasses of water a day, maintain a healthy diet, and take vitamins. If exercise does not appeal to you, take a walk. Walking has proven to be one of the best methods to build a healthy mind as well as body.